Feds Scrap Grand Vision To Expand Marine Sanctuary In Hawaii

After six years of planning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has withdrawn its proposal to expand the size and focus of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

In addition to enlarging the sanctuary from 1,366 square miles to 1,601 square miles, the proposal would have allowed it to protect more marine species — not only the humpback whale — by shifting to an ecosystem-based management approach.

NOAA said it decided to abandon the project in the face of opposition from the state of Hawaii, which co-manages the sanctuary and must sign off on any changes.

John Armor, regional director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, told The Huffington Post that the inability of state and federal agencies to agree was disappointing, but not surprising.

“Certainly going out to the public, we got an earful,” he said.

Established by Congress in 1992, the national sanctuary lies within the shallow, warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian islands — one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.

Each year between November and May, as many as 10,000 humpback whales return from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to the warmer waters of Hawaii to mate and give birth.

After being pushed to the brink of extinction, the North Pacific humpback population has increased drastically over the last half-century. In 1966, the year commercial whaling was banned in the North Pacific, the population had been reduced to fewer than 1,400. Current estimates put their numbers at around 20,000.

While the recovery of the species is a success story, the sanctuary recognized the need to pivot its attention to a more holistic approach.

“Managing a single species is not the way management is done, either on land or in the water,” Armor said. “We were trying to evolve —> Read More